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The two articles below were published in lifestyles, a look at some of what
makes living in the teche area unique
a special section of The Daily Iberian / Monday, February 26, 2007.
Permission has been graciously granted to reproduce the articles on this site. The format has been retained to the extent possible when converting from a full-size newspaper layout to a web page layout. Notes have been added to provide links.
Additional information, larger-size photos and photos of other persons buried in the cemetery may be obtained by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Also, please send any information you may have on descendants of those buried in the tombs tagged for DEMOLITION.
|Goals of the Friends of the Historic
St. Nicholas Cemetery
To locate people whose ancestors are buried in tombs designated for possible removal due to disrepair. To do this by using genealogy to find descendants and notify them of the current situation.
To make them aware of their moral and financial responsibility toward this family member's tomb. To use genealogy reports and charts to show one's relationship to the deceased. Furthermore, to convince the present-day family that repairs are needed immediately and that the church is not financially responsible for repairing these tombs.
To advise about making the repairs in a manner befitting a historical cemetery using proper materials and methods to preserve the integrity of the site.
To sponsor educational meetings and seminars to further document the history of the Patoutville area and its founding families.
By Steve Bandy The Daily Iberian
They don’t all know each other. In fact, some of them have never met face-to-face. But a group of about a dozen people from Iberia Parish to Houston to Chapel Hill, N.C., have formed a unique friendship centered around the cemetery at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Patoutville.
Now dubbed “Friends of the Historic St. Nicholas Cemetery,” the group communicates via e-mails, telephone and, at times, personal meetings.
It all started for C. Michael Bodin in April or May when he visited the St. Nicholas Cemetery as part of a genealogy project. What he found were about three dozen notices posted throughout the cemetery on 2-foot-high stakes next to tombs in desperate need of repair.
“The notices, on letter-sized sheets of laminated paper, many curling in on themselves from exposure to the elements, asked that someone come forth and make a claim to the site and take responsibility for repairs,” Bodin said.
“If not, the notice warned, ‘St. Nicholas Church, in accordance with the provisions of the Cemetery Law of the State of Louisiana, will reserve the right to reclaim this plot, demolish this tomb, and transfer the remains to a common burial place in the cemetery.”
The deadline was set for Sept. 15. That deadline has since been extended to April 7.
Don Louviere of Houston was already familiar with the situation and had passed on the information to the Acadian-Cajun List at Rootsweb.com.
It was June before Louviere, credited as the “founder” of Friends, could get to the area, his family’s ancestral home until 1900, and begin a dialogue with the then-pastor of St. Nicholas Church, the Rev. Richard Fabre.
Louviere began to document the cemetery by listing and photographing the tombs marked for removal. He also contacted Stanley LeBlanc of Dallas, who owns a Web site called www.thecajuns.com.
LeBlanc, a New Iberia native, posted the notice regarding the possible removal of remains on his Web site, along with more than two dozen photos to bring awareness to the problem. [Note: See names page for genealogical information and photo page for photos]
Nancy Armentor Lees, another New Iberia native but someone who has never met LeBlanc, Louviere or any of the other Friends group, came on board after learning of the problem by visiting Rootsweb.com. From her home in Chapel Hill, N.C., Lees now spends countless hours doing research to help locate descendants of those buried in the tombs designated as “abandoned” by the church.
Locally, as word spread through the community of the signs standing sentinel-like at numerous sites throughout the cemetery, two New Iberians, Julaine Deare Schexnayder and Shirley Broussard — who share an interest in genealogy, heard of the situation and went out to see it for themselves.
Schexnayder and Broussard were instrumental in bringing the notices to public attention, contacting The Daily Iberian and The Jeanerette Enterprise, as well as other Acadiana-area media.
“It’s not a vindictive thing between us and the church. It’s more of a cooperative effort,” Schexnayder explained.
“We understand that they want to clean up the cemetery, but we hate to see all that historical significance lost if these tombs are simply bulldozed away.”
In late October, in cooperation with the Patoutville Church and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Jeanerette, the still-unnamed group distributed to parishioners a listing of the names on the memorials and asked for descendants to come forward and make claim to the tombs.
On All Saints Day, several of the Friends group gathered at the cemetery to hand out questionnaires to those [see REST, Page 9]
Bill Smith/The Daily Iberian
Bottom Photo: Tana Robicheaux Thibodeaux cleans around the recently found gravesite of her great-aunt Marie Landry at St. Nicholas Cemetery
Top photo: Marie Landry's grave was covered by years of grime and paint as seen in a photo submitted by the family
Doris Landry Robicheaux [mother of Tana Robicheaux Thibodeaux] next to tomb of Marie Landry, her aunt. [Note: This photo wasn't in the article but has been provided courtesy of The Daily Iberian]
[page 9] REST: Plans symposiums, From page 1
making their annual visit to inspect family graves.
“In this way, many previously unidentified tombs were given names and contact information for local family members was obtained,” Schexnayder said, pointing to the thick folder filled with pink questionnaires.
It was around this time that Peter Patout, a Jeanerette native now living in New Orleans, came on board. Patout is particularly interested because St. Nicholas Church at Patoutville was established as a direct result of his great-great-great-grandmother, Appoline Fournier Patout, who was given permission to build a chapel on Enterprise Plantation. The church was later moved to its current location.
Peter Patout plans to have symposiums in the area to bring to light the historical significance of cemeteries such as the one at Patoutville.
Currently, Louviere continues his mapping of the cemetery, which is estimated to contain more than 1,000 burial sites. He is establishing global positioning satellite coordinates for each gravesite in the cemetery.
When the mapping is completed, it will be included on his Web site, along with an alphabetical listing of those buried there, Broussard said.
“Those gravesites that have been marked so far are, by far, the worst out there,” Bodin said. “I’m afraid this is only ‘phase one’ of the overall plan, because a number of other graves and tombs are right on the threshold and could be included in a clean-up program in years to come if they are not tended to.”
“All we want,” Schexnayder added, “is for descendants of those buried in Patoutville to come forward and take responsibility for these sites. When we pray for the deceased, we say, ‘Rest in peace.’ I’m pretty sure grandpa or great-grandma doesn’t want to be moved.”
by Steve Bandy
The Daily Iberian
|A Centerville woman credits
Friends of the Historic St. Nicholas Cemetery with finally finding the
burial site of her great aunt.
For more than three decades Tana Robicheaux Thibodeaux has been trying to find the grave of Marie Landry in the Patoutville cemetery. The search intensified when she was notified by her mother Doris Landry Robicheaux that a number of graves in the cemetery had been marked to be destroyed if not claimed by family members.
“We had been trying to locate Marie for the past 35 years and were truly hoping that hers was not one of those,” Thibodeaux said.
Robicheaux recalls that, in 1993, they took her grandfather William “Bill” Landry — Marie’s brother — to the cemetery to see if it would jog his memory as to the location of her tomb. Bill Landry was only 9 when Marie died.
“He said all he could remember was her tomb being near the big cross in the cemetery,” Thibodeaux said. “But then again, at the age of 9, this could have been deceiving. Needless to say, we had no luck.”
Thibodeaux contacted Don Louviere, credited as founder of Friends, using information she found in a story in The Daily Iberian. Louviere has been mapping the cemetery since mid-2006, right after he found out that some of the tombs had been marked for demolition.
Thibodeaux said she received a return e-mail from Louviere on Nov. 2 and immediately phoned her daughter, Jeannie Segura, with the news.
“Jeannie convinced me to go to the cemetery right away,” Thibodeaux recalled. “We live in Centerville and it takes us about 20 minutes to get there, so we were off. We got there and, using Mr. Louviere’s information, went straight to her tomb ... and, yes, it is near the big cross!
“I can’t tell you how many times I walked past that tomb. Since it is so small, I thought it was for a baby.”
She said the headstone had been coated with many layers of paint, but they were able to make out some lettering.
“My daughter found a piece of broken glass and started scraping at the paint. Slowly the letter began to appear,” Thibodeaux said. “The glass kept breaking, but Jeannie was determined.”
Getting frustrated with the time it was taking to peel away the paint, Thibodeaux said she sat down at the foot of the tomb and “begged Marie to let me know if this was really her.”
“I’ve been doing genealogy since 1986. I’ve walked many cemeteries. Never in this time have I ever looked under a vase,” she said.
“But, as I sat there, I reached out to the vase on the tomb and turned it over. To my great surprise was the name ‘L.H. Landry.’
“The emotions that ran through me! I have chills to this day. I was crying and laughing at the same time.”
Thibodeaux said her daughter was obviously confused at this turn of events and kept asking what she saw on the vase.
“I was shouting, ‘Her daddy! Her daddy! L.H. Landry! Luke H. Landry!’”
After doing a joyous dance around the tomb, Thibodeaux grabbed her cell phone and called her mother.
“I don’t have to tell you how happy this made her,” she said.
Thibodeaux and her daughter returned to the cemetery the following day, armed with gloves, paint stripper and scrub brushes and, “after much cleaning, Marie’s headstone is beautiful.”
A few days later she brought her mother out to visit the grave, an event she said was “very emotional” for everyone.
“After all these years ... thanks to Don and his friends, our mystery is solved — and has a very happy ending,” she said.
Thibodeaux said she’s currently busy with end-of-the-year bookkeeping for the family business, “but you can bet, as soon as those books are closed, I will be out at the Patoutville Cemetery doing whatever I can to help document every single grave that’s out there.”
Marie Landry's head stone has now been cleaned by her family
The name L.H. Landry on the bottom of this vase on the
Shirley Broussard, left; C. Michael Bodin, Julaine Deare
Two graves at St. Nicolas Cemetery in Patoutville sit in a state of disrepair, with poison ivy growing in the cracks of the tombs. A notice is placed indicating these are slated for demolition.
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